Catch With My Dad
Short Family Story
My dad and I used to play catch a lot. We’d go out to the backyard and just toss the ball for a little bit. I loved watching baseball, so I went out to play any chance I could get. I think my dad did it to blow off some steam. He hated his job, so he blew off steam a lot. Sometimes he would just sit looking out the window in the middle of the night.
On Thursdays my dad would get out of the factory early. He would go to the bars at around four, and be back before eight. My mom and I would be watching the 7 o’clock news. He would get back and stand to the side of us without saying a word. He would look at me and ask me to go to the front yard and break a twig off of the small tree by the mailbox. I’d look at him, and I’d look at my mom, then back at him, and say “ok.” So I did what I was asked and brought him the switch. He’d then calmly ask me to take off my shirt, and so I did. For the twenty minutes after I’d be whipped with the switch. It never hurt too bad. When he was finished, he’d tassel my hair and say he’d love me, and I would respond, “I love you too.” I’d go to hug my mom, and with tears in her eyes she’d hug me too, and then I’d go to bed.
Every now and then, my dad would bring me to go bowling with him and his friends. They would always cheer me on, and every time I had a good shot, my dad would yell, “that’s my boy!” and give me a high five.
Sometimes at night I’d sneak into my parents bedroom when they were sleeping. I would grab my dad’s snub-nose out of his nightstand drawer, and aim it at his head from about an inch away. I’d cock it as quietly as possible, and just stand there with my finger on the trigger.
As a joke, my dad would occasionally kick me down the stairs if he was right behind me. It would just be a light kick, and I’d stumble down a step or two. I would always look back at him and smile, and he would be laughing too. One day he did it again, but for some reason I couldn’t catch myself. I just kept on tumbling and tumbling down the steps. I landed on the wood floor at the bottom, not in any pain at all really. I looked up at him expecting to see a smile, but he just had this horrified look on his face. I saw my hand, and I just had a couple broken fingers. Not a big deal, we’d just tell them that I shut my hand in the door like we always did. Then I looked at my right leg. Instead of the knee bending the normal way, it bent the same way, but forward. The bone was sticking out, and blood was pouring on the floor pretty fast. I looked at him, and he looked at me, and for the first time I could see remorse and fear in his eyes.
A couple months earlier, my dad brought me to the drive-in. Instead of leaving after the first film, we just stayed until the third movie was over. We were making up life stories about everyone we could see. My dad was really good at making up stories. We left at about midnight, and both of us could not stop smiling until we got home. It was a good day.
Three days earlier, and twenty years later, my dad died in prison.
I visited him every Tuesday for the most part. Some days I just didn’t have time, but I always warned him ahead of time. The day he died I had to stay at work late. I didn’t call him, because I didn’t have time to even think about it. That day he stayed in his cell alone, and then went to the visiting center to window #3, the same window as always. He would then wait at the window to be visited by a non-existent visitor. He just looked at the window. The memory of not having the memory of looking back at him I will never forget, and always regret. An hour and a half after our usual visit time, my dad died on his cot.
During the summer sometime, we played catch in the backyard. It was a little later in the day than usual, but I didn’t care. It was about midway through, and he stopped and looked towards the sunset. Seeing him, I put the ball in my mitt and looked too. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
more by TYLER CLIFTON
Photograph by Benjamin Faust